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ConnectingUS: Federal programs boost budget for high-speed Internet service

By Margaret Harding McGill, NTIA

Robyn Johnson found out the hard way just how little her Internet bandwidth could carry when COVID-19 struck.

Her bandwidth hit its limit when her high school and elementary school-aged children tried to attend classes online while she instructed classes of her own as a fourth-grade teacher at the Eagle Butte, South Dakota elementary school on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation.

“We were having to literally schedule out who was going to be online at what times,” Johnson, 40, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said. “It was very frustrating. I needed to make sure I was available to my students, our younger daughter had to access her teacher when she was on. It was especially frustrating for the older kids – a lot of times they had to wait and do their work in the afternoon and evening. When the rest of us were done, they were just getting started with their stuff.”

Johnson said with her husband out of work at the time, paying more money for a higher speed tier of service just wasn’t possible.

But then she learned about federal funding that could help put faster service within reach. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority (CRSTTA), the Internet service provider on the reservation, received a grant from NTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program to help make service more affordable for residents.

CRSTTA also participates in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a federal program that provides a $75 monthly subsidy for Internet service on Tribal lands.

Between the ACP program and the NTIA TBCP grant, Johnson was able to afford a higher speed tier of service.

“It's been a great asset to us to be able to allow us to have high-speed Internet at an affordable price for us,” she said. “The Internet is still very much needed in the household.  My older kids in high school are both taking some online courses. The evening times are still them on their laptops, and me doing all my planning as well. So it's still very beneficial to us.”

Why Internet for All matters to me: “Internet is very important in my household, to be able to allow us to continue with our schoolwork or my job. It also allows us to communicate effectively with our co-workers, our teachers and family members.” Robyn Johnson, 40, Eagle Butte, SD.